Summary: Jesus stood alone for us at his trial and stands by our side today.
I’ve had the pleasure of living in Missouri for my entire life. There are a lot of great things about Missouri. One of them is our state parks. There are state parks scattered throughout the state. What is great about them is that they are each a little different from each other. The state parks represent the diversity of the land in this state. For those of you who are not from Missouri, let me take a minute to tell you about one of them. The name of the park is Elephant Rocks. This is simply an incredible place. It is about an hour or so outside of Saint Louis. Inside the park there are these large granite rocks. The gray/pink color of the rocks resembles the color of elephant skin and gives them their name. The rocks vary in size. Some are only a couple feet tall and a couple of feet wide while others are several hundred feet in either direction. Some of them appear to be perched up and it would seem like you could simply push them over. Regardless of how hard you try(and trust me we’ve tried), none of these rocks are moving. A while back, there was a mining company the quarried some of the granite. You can tell this by looking at some of the rock today. In the rock remaining in the quarry there are holes about 2 inches in diameter about 1 foot apart. These holes were created by the dynamite used to break the rock apart. These rocks are so solid and strong that is the only way to break them apart.
Our Gospel tonight takes us through some important times in Peter’s life. Peter’s original name was Simon. He was called to be one of the disciples of Christ. Early in their time together, Jesus asked Simon who he thought he was. Jesus straight out asks him, “Who do you say I am?”. There are plenty of answers he could have given. This time was one of uncertainty. You had people who said John the Baptist was Christ. You had others who leaned towards the prophets as Christ. Even other disciples were uncertain exactly who Jesus was. But Simon responded solidly to Jesus’ question. Simon said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Wow, what a declaration. Simon stood solid in the midst of all the uncertainty. And what was his reward? His reward was a new name. His new name was to be Peter. This signifies something much stronger then just a name change. You see, the Greek word for Peter means “rock”. Jesus had called Peter not only to be one of the twelve, but to build his church upon. Of everyone that Jesus could have picked, he picked Peter to ensure the continuation of the Christian church. Peter was now tasked with being that stone on which the church would be built upon.
So what happens next? There is a large gap of time between the time in which Peter was named Peter, and the time of our reading from John. This time is certainly key to the life of Peter. Throughout the gospels there are mentions of Peter taking on this role of the “rock”. Peter took the forefront role with the disciples on several occasions. One of the most notable times can be found in Matthew chapter 26 in the 33rd verse. Here Peter says, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” It seemed like Peter was on the high road to early Christian church stardom. Could there be anything to topple this rock? There was nothing to stop him, until he met his dynamite.
So what could possibly cause this rock to crumble? Was it some type of massive group of people confronting him? Was it someone high in the government threatening Peter with death? No, Mark tells us it was a servant girl. This single woman pulled Peter apart. She didn’t threaten him, or bring an angry mob with her. All she did was to ask a question. A simple question of knowing Jesus. And then not once, but three times Peter disowns Jesus in front of her and others who gathered around.
What happened here? Let’s not be too quick to judge Peter. Let’s take a look at our own lives first. Maybe we should do a bit of self-assessment. When you think about it, Peter’s story is actually typical today. Peter, like all of us, had the best intentions. He said he would stand fast, even when others fall away. He wanted to be that solid rock for Jesus. We all want that. But then something happens. Think about the conversations at work or at school. You all know the one I’m talking about. Picture a group of people. The topic is religion. As your palms begin to sweat you stroll up and mix into the circle to listen to the topic. Then someone says, “as long as you have some type of religion, isn’t that enough”. And then someone else says, “I’m a good person so I know I’ll be saved”. And what do we do? Do we stand there silently? Maybe a more simpler situation. How about the merging-lanes-cutoff? Do you reach out your window and give a wave of understanding or do you show off some other gesture? Our daily lives aren’t about our rhetoric, it is about our actions. Our actions speak loudly as to if we are a crumbling rock, or if we stand firm through Jesus.